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The vault of memories, tradition

The Bell Curve

June 10, 2010|Joseph N. Bell

Banks are rightly taking a lot of heat for their part in our economy's dismal state. So when a positive bank story surfaces, it deserves to be told. And by a remarkable coincidence, we have one right here in Newport Beach.

This positive bank story started almost 60 years ago when Cal and Anne Siegle packed up their family in Butler, Pa., moved briefly to Dallas then pushed onward and settled in Newport Beach. They were more than ready to put down roots, especially since Cal had been old enough and young enough to be directly involved in both World War II and the Korean War.

One of the early roots that the Siegles sought was a neighborhood bank where they could manage the business of their family. This was still a time when banks were thought of that way. . But there was a true neighborhood bank, which overlooked the bridge to Balboa Island. It turned out to be a long relationship.

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As Cal and Anne's daughter, Candace, put it, "We stuck with the bank through a variety of names, but none of them were ever as important as Union."

One thing that didn't change over all these years was sitting around a coffee table in an alcove of the bank for a cup or two that accompanied every visit the Siegles made to the bank — even after Anne became increasingly ill. Again as Candace remembers it, "When she descended further into Alzheimer's, the friendship and support of the bank and its customers became more and more important."

And when Anne was put into a nursing home, Cal found solace in visiting the bank daily, and so the Union Coffee Club was born. So close was the connection that when Anne died in December 2008, club members served as pall bearers, and the club became an institution with a life of its own.

When I stopped by unannounced last Monday morning at about 9:15, the coffee was already flowing and I was welcomed by the four members present who grew to seven before the meeting adjourned and the coffeepot was dry. This, I was told, is one of the club's two rules: Members gather at 9 a.m. and wrap at 10, and only bank customers are eligible.

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